Montana State University

Deadline nears for local government reviews

January 18, 2006 -- from MSU News Service

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
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Bozeman - Montana cities, counties and towns have nearly 10 months to finish a constitutionally mandated assessments of local government, according to Judy Mathre, assistant director of the Local Government Center based at Montana State University.

Mathre said the local government reviews were part of Montana's unique Local Government Review process mandated by the Montana Constitution. According to Mathre, the review process may take up to two years and local study commissions must finish assessments of local government by the Nov. 7 general election, which is the last date any change can be put on the ballot for voter consideration.

In total, there are 81 study commissions in the state elected by local voters in the November 2004 elections to study their units of local government, including 14 county study commissions and 67 municipal commissions.

"None of the county study commissions (as far as we know) have completed their review, but 26 municipal study commissions have completed their work, " Mathre said. The commissions that have complete their work either gave their local government a clean bill of health or placed some recommended improvement on the November 2005 ballot for voter consideration.

Ten recommended changes in local government structures have been approved by local voters, including new municipal charters in Choteau, Cut Bank, Manhattan, Three Forks, Saco and West Yellowstone, she said.

Mathre said that leaves study commissions in some 41 cities and towns and 14 Montana counties that are still hard at work trying to decide whether some aspect of their local government is "broke and needs fixen'." Or, whether their government "needs to be left alone to look after the public health and safety and fill the potholes this spring.

"In either case, all of the remaining study commissions have to finish their work by the Nov. 7 general election, which is the last date any change can be put on the ballot for voter consideration," Mathre said. "After (the November election deadline), the study commissions fold their tents for another ten years when, once again the citizens of Montana will decide whether their unit of local government needs a 'check-up' by the voters."

For more information on the process, contact the MSU Local Government Center at 994-6680.

Contact: Judy Mathre (406) 994-6680